- On Wednesday, December 5, 2001, the third day of his official visit to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, traveled to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity and Saint Sergius in Sergiev Posad, a two-hour drive from Moscow.
Thousands of faithful joined the monastic brotherhood in welcoming Metropolitan Theodosius at the entrance to the monastery, Russia’s largest and most important, after which a procession proceeded to the 600-year-old Holy Trinity Cathedral. It is in this cathedral that the relics of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, who established the monastery in the 14th century, are enshrined.
After venerating the relics, Metropolitan Theodosius addressed the faithful and reflected on the example Saint Sergius provides in our own era. Despite tremendous hardships, Saint Sergius established the monastic community in what had been pristine wilderness, and shortly thereafter auxiliary monasteries and sketes were also established by the brotherhood. The Metropolitan also spoke of the impact Saint Sergius had on the spiritual growth of the Russian people.
After distributing icons to the faithful, Metropolitan Theodosius made his way to the adjacent Church of the Holy Spirit to venerate the relics of Saint Innocent Veniaminov. It was Saint Innocent who had served as a missionary priest in Alaska in the early 19th century before becoming the first Orthodox ruling bishop in North America and later Metropolitan of Moscow. Again, Metropolitan Theodosius addressed the faithful, noting the important role Saint Innocent played in the life of the Orthodox Churches of America and Russia.
“To pray before Saint Innocent’s relics is especially moving for me,” Metropolitan Theodosius told the faithful. “He was my predecessor in the episcopacy in North America, as well as in Alaska, where I first served after my own consecration to the episcopacy in the 1960s. He holds a special place in my life and in the life of all Orthodox Christians in North America, just as he holds a special place in the life of Russia’s faithful.”
After praying in the monastery’s main Cathedral of the Dormition, Metropolitan Theodosius was welcomed to the Moscow Theological Academy, located in the monastery complex, by the Rector of the school, His Eminence, Archbishop Evgeny. Four hundred students, who were in the midst of preparing for their final examinations, listened attentively in the academy’s spacious lecture hall as Metropolitan Theodosius spoke of the overwhelming warmth with which he was greeted, not only at the monastery and academy, but at the other places he had visited during the preceeding two days.
“It is of the utmost importance that you cultivate an inner discipline, a spiritual discipline,” Metropolitan Theodosius told the students. “Only through a deeply-rooted spiritual life can your studies here be of any meaning to you or of any eventual service to Christ’s Body, which is the Church. Integrate prayer, community service, and works of charity and mercy into your daily lives and daily routine, so as not to lose focus, so as not to lose the understanding of why and for what and whom you are undergoing your present academic work.”
Metropolitan Theodosius reminded the students that the study of Orthodox theology is “completely different than studying at any other type of school, be it a graduate school, trade school, or other type of institution of higher learning.
“This difference is found, not only in the subject matter which is taught and learned, but also in its goal,” Metropolitan Theodosius continued. “What you are studying is first and foremost a means to union and communion with the Living God, the Holy, Life-giving and undivided Trinity. The knowledge you acquire during your studies here is not an end in itself, nor is it to be viewed as the means to an ecclesiastical career; it is a gift to be shared with all who seek the truth and desire to abide in the saving love of the Incarnate Lord.”
Acknowledging that academic life can be filled with “stress and pressures,” Metropolitan Theodosius challenged the students to study and pray with diligence.
“Use your time here wisely for, as in any effort which seeks to follow the will of God, the evil one works to distract, divide, and confuse,” Metropolitan Theodosius concluded. “Counter all temptations with a love for prayer, a love for learning, and a love for serving one another, and you will discern the life to which God is calling you and be assisted in living in harmony with the Divine Will.”
After imparting his blessing upon the students and speaking with them personally, Metropolitan Theodosius returned to Moscow.
On Thursday, December 6, Metropolitan Theodosius is scheduled to visit Saint Dmitri Orphanage in Moscow, where he will be greeted by the Rector, the Very Rev. Arkady Shatov. He will also address students at the Saint Tikhon Theological Institute before concelebrating the All-Night Vigil on the Eve of the Feast of the Great Martyr Catherine with His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy of Moscow and All Rus in the Orthodox Church in America’s Representation Church of Saint Catherine in central Moscow.